I Want to Legal Hold Your Hand

This guest post is by Holly Dolan, MLS, Assistant Manager of Denton County Records Management in Denton, Texas. If you would link to download copies of these valentines for your own re-use, Holly has graciously made this PDF available.

At some point in their career every records manager has felt the air go sour when they’ve walked into a room. What is it about records management that sets people on edge? Perhaps it’s the dense policy documents, the fear of making a mistake, or that dreaded word—compliance—that creates resistance and fear in our customers. Whatever the cause, overcoming this distrust can feel like an impossible task, but failing to address the issue can create communication barriers that make effective records management nearly impossible. So how do records managers build relationships of trust in the organizations that we serve while still gaining compliance?

RMValentines

To build relationships I try to focus on creative outreach, and one easy way I accomplish this is through fun holiday messages. Light-hearted messages make compliance information easier to digest and boosts the knowledge in my organization without relying on formal training. A great example of this type of outreach is our Valentine’s Day cards. When I first designed these cards, the main goal was to make my co-workers in our Records Management division laugh. I quickly realized, with each card having a records management term on them, this was a great outreach opportunity. We sent a copy of the cards to all of our records management liaisons countywide along with a link to our glossary. We received great feedback and even some positive comments from departments whom we rarely have the opportunity to interact with. It was great to see that inserting a little bit of humor into the topic made records management a bit more palatable to them.

Since then, we’ve tried to continue sending creative and upbeat outreach materials. Messages, newsletters, and even policy updates that include fun graphics and colors tend to be well received. For example, new records management liaisons each receive a colorful infographic outlining their duties. Last year’s Halloween message let our customers know that, even though cleaning out your file cabinet can be scary, Records Management can help! I truly believe that since we’ve focused on this type of outreach, our division and its mission has become better received throughout the county.

So why does creative outreach make such a difference? I believe that the nature of our work and the preconceived notions about records management sets us at an immediate disadvantage when attempting to communicate. We need to remain visible to our organizations, but when we just focus on the policy, we tend to exacerbate these communication issues and risk turning people off. Using humor in outreach establishes a mutual humanity with our customers, and when they see that we’re human (rather than the records management robots they were expecting), they may decide that records management isn’t that horrible after all.

Advertisements

HQ2 and the Right-to-Know

Regardless of what camp you find yourself in on the topic of Amazon’s HQ2 courtship with North American cities, the process has triggered open record requests and questions about the degree to which cities are required to disclose the documentation of their overtures to the corporate giant.

This is especially true in Pittsburgh, where inclusion of the region’s bid, titled PGHQ2, as one of 20 finalist cities led to renewed demand for the full proposal to be released via the state’s open records law. Why is this important? Many cities have offered significant tax and civic incentives to sway Amazon’s interest. With promised results of $5 billion in economic investment and the creation of 50,000 jobs, an argument can be made that it is in the public interest to know how elected officials believe HQ2 will influence the social, political, and economic fiber of their region.

These desire for details have manifested themselves in open records requests throughout many candidate cities, to varying degrees of success. Pennsylvania’s mechanism for open records requests, the Right-to-Know Law, was signed into law in 2008 and is facilitated by the state’s Office of Open Records. Like many open records laws, all records are presumed to be public and are deemed “open” unless one of several exceptions bars their disclosure. Thus, the burden is on the government agency to argue why certain records, for instance a proposal with wide-ranging public impact, should not be made publicly available.

AmazonHQ2Finalists_AmazonDotCom
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17044620011

So what’s happening in the Steel City? Like hundreds of other cities across North America Pittsburgh submitted its bid in October 2017, the details of which were not publicly disclosed. PGHQ2, led by elected city and county officials, first cited a confidentially agreement with Amazon. The reasoning for secrecy soon shifted to “protecting a competitive advantage.” Right-to-Know requests for the proposal were refused. Requests for secondary records (letters, emails, notes) pertaining to the process, not the proposal itself, were met with half hearted gestures. The City initially stated those weren’t public either; the county responded that “the records do not exist.” Eventually these secondary requests were fulfilled through state intervention (Harrisburg itself is a big proponent of Pittsburgh’s bid).

But what of the PGHQ2 proposal? As is often the case with open records requests, persistence pays off. Fast forward two months to January 24, when news broke that Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records issued a ruling on a Right-to-Know request filed by local WTAE reporters ordering Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh to make the full PGHQ2 proposal and corresponding documentation public within 30 days. In a coincidental twist, both entities have 30 days to appeal, the same period one has to return unopened items to Amazon. If delivered, there’s no doubt Pittsburghers will open this proposal package.

peduto-amazon-1511917863
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto holding the PGHQ2 proposal. Image Credit WTAE Pittsburgh.

The jury is still out on whether or not it’s truly in the region’s best interest that the PGHQ2 push is successful. With revived economic sectors, oft-touted cultural amenities, regional charm, and room to grow, Pittsburgh’s case is compelling. But the records and documents supporting that case shouldn’t be kept from the very citizens that make Pittsburgh so alluring. Open records laws, like Pennsylvania’s, are meant to serve the public good and promote transparent and accountable government. If Pittsburgh officials baited the PGHQ2 hook with tax incentives, public domain authority, or questionable civic inducements, the citizens of Southwest Pennsylvania certainly have a Right-to-Know.

Resourceful Records Managers- Brad Houston

Our eagerly anticipated series Resourceful Records Managers returns! This month we meet Brad Houston, City Records Officer and Document Services Manager for the City of Milwaukee.

*If you would like to be included in this feature please contact Jessika Drmacich,  jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

BradHouston

What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

Honestly, I kind of fell into it– took a RM course as an elective during my archives program at the University of Maryland, had an RM internship in the Executive Office of the President that summer, and when I was done with school I took a job at UW-Milwaukee doing records management. Somewhere along the line I said “hey, this is actually really cool” and I haven’t looked back.

What is your educational background?

I have a BA from Grinnell College and an MLS from the University of Maryland-College Park, back when it was still the College of Library and Information Studies. (I refuse to use the i-word in conjunction with that program. I got in before it happened, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) While I was at Maryland, I participated in the HiLS (History and Library Science) program, which allowed me to work on my MA in European History at the same time as I was working on my MLS.

Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?

A few– mostly members of the Records Management Roundtable steering committee, who were very good about reaching out to new members and providing good advice about progressing in the RM side of the Archives career. (This is, BTW, one of the reasons I want to do education when I have the time– I want to pay it forward.)

How did you first become interested in Records Management?

I guess it was that internship at the Executive Office of the President I mentioned– I had done archives work before but this was my first real-life exposure to active records, and I found it fascinating. Records are the life-blood of an organization, and categorizing them in series to make sense out of them is an intriguing puzzle to solve.

What is your role at your institution?

As records officer for the City of Milwaukee, my primary duty is to manage and sign off on the city’s records retention program, and a lot of my day is spent on that. I am also, however, manager of the City Records Center, which is Milwaukee’s storage space for inactive records and home of the city’s central imaging program. As I mentioned in my recent(ish) blog post it’s easy to fall into the trap that I’m still overseeing an archive, but I’m constantly reminding myself that a lot of what we have is not going to stay around, by definition. (That said we *do* have a lot of really good archival stuff that we should do more to promote.)

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The challenge! I know that’s a cliche answer but it’s really true– I was getting a bit into a rut at UWM, but working at the City is giving me a chance to work with a functional EDMS and imaging program, a central records system, and learn about entirely new functions and activities of both my unit and of the city as a whole. There’s a lot of work to be done– for example, I am working on cleaning out 4000 of our approximately 5500 schedules, which is obviously going to take a while– but it’s interesting work and likely to keep me busy for a while.

What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

Honestly, looking back at my tenure at UWM I am pleased to have left both the records management and electronic records programs better than I found them. I feel like I really raised the profile of both programs and made UWM employees more aware of the their records and archives responsibilities, which is going to lead to more of the University’s institutional history being preserved. That’s a great feeling. Hoping I can replicate it at the City!

What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

I’ve worked in University archives and am now working in Local Government. I’ve talked a bit already on this blog about some of the differences, but here’s another one– I am, to a much greater extent than at UWM, on my own with regards to retention management. It was nice having the safety net of my colleagues at the other UW campuses to bounce questions/concerns off of, and to work with on vetting legal and administrative requirements in scheduling; here, I largely have to do that myself (though we do have an Info Management committee that provides review/feedback.) See above about The Challenge.

What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

Lean into it! Records Management is an invaluable skill to have, even if you are going to be doing mostly archives, because it encourages you to take an analytical approach towards appraisal, processing, preservation, etc. In general, helping institutions apply records management in situ means less work for you the archivist later. (Plus, of course, you’re making yourself that much more hire-able if you have a specialty like this– Records Managers promise a tangible return on investment to institutions, and so the positions are a bit easier to find.)

Do you belong to any professional organizations?

I’ve been a member of SAA since 2006, a member of the Midwest Archives Conference since 2011, and recently re-upped my membership with ARMA. I also joined NAGARA upon taking this position, since I am still new to Local Government and will take all the help I can get!

Thoughts on the future of records management?

I’m with Don Lueders (https://nextgenrm.com/2017/04/29/on-why-the-records-management-profession-must-endure/) on this– I don’t feel like records management is going to be replaced by information governance, nor should it be. There’s so much stuff being created every day, so much of it is taking up space (physical or otherwise) unnecessarily, and it is our job as information professionals to apply our expertise to, if not solving the problem, at least remediating it. If information governance is part of that solution (and it should be), great. IG doesn’t have the same objectives or focus as RM, however, and it’s important to maintain that focus, especially in a digital world.

What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

Again, it’s cliche to say “electronic records”, but it really is! ERMSs are one thing, but increasingly we’re dealing with an information ecosystem that can’t be put into a DoD 5015.2 box, or at least not easily. We need to be actively thinking about the next big thing in the way we as a society convey information, and about what we want to do with that next big thing from a management and retention viewpoint. I feel like a lot of institutions give RM the role of managing paper records only, and we collectively need to push back on that– we have (or should have) a lot to offer in the digital realm as well, and we need to keep growing if we are to survive as a profession.

Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

As followers of my Twitter account will soon surmise, I play the Magic: the Gathering collectible card game, I have a more-than-casual interest in National and Wisconsin politics, and I am an outspoken Cubs fan. (They were eliminated last night… Hopefully we won’t have to wait 108 years for the next World Series championship.) I like to bake, garden, and bike ride, but my time for those has been reduced significantly by the birth of my son 2 years ago. (Luckily he’s now at an age where he can help me garden and goes in the bike trailer, but baking with a 2 year old is still a challenge.)

Do you have a quote you live by?

“Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts.” –Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (This is the flavor text on some versions of the Archivist Magic card, which MAY have something to do with my appreciation of this quote.)

 

Developing a Records Management Program: The People Part

Hello Readers:

My name is Elizabeth and I’m the Archivist for Records Management at the Bentley Historical Library for the University of Michigan. In my role, I am responsible for the development of a records management program that will fit – and ultimately benefit – the University. While the program builds upon the work of past Bentley archivists responsible for the development of university collections, what we really seek to bring is a collaborative approach to University-wide recordkeeping and to align that approach with the University’s overall information governance strategy. At the time of this post, the program is just over a year old.

My work is most closely affiliated with that of the field archivists. The five of us constitute the Collections Development Unit. Together, we manage donor relationships and collecting priorities. Managing donor relationships is a substantial conversation on its own and it is one I will be musing upon from time to time. To be frank, I’ve been a bit dissatisfied with the literature I’ve read on the subject of building a records management program. In particular, the bulleted lines of advice such as “get buy-in”, “find stakeholders”, and “develop a liaisons network”. Easy-peasy!

Hold up.

Of course it is not that simple.

When talking about donor relationships, many archivists envision individuals and families in keeping with the manuscript tradition. Institutional archivists and records managers don’t do that per se. Our donors are departments and units and business functionaries. We also have individual contacts within those bodies. So, in addition to managing relationships with our donors over a long period of time, we also must manage the contacts we make. Whether those contacts are the agents of transfer, records liaisons, sources of institutional knowledge or potential allies, the cultivation and stewardship of those contacts ranks among the most important functions of any institutional archives and records management program.

Gosh, if managing relationships isn’t a skill on its own. There are plenty of articles on emotional intelligence and soft skills. Career guidance for records managers usually include a call for ‘good communication skills’. Just this past summer I attended a lovely session titled Soft Skills for Hard Tech at SAA. There are articles and one-pagers dedicated towards crossing that IT/Archives/RM/IG barrier. However, the challenge I face while building the program is not just a matter of parlance. It’s a matter of experience, strategy, relationship-building and negotiating bureaucratic politics.

Thinking back to collections development, let’s take a moment to consider what “development” entails. In the nonprofit world, a part of development is the creation, nurturing, and maintaining of relationships that hopefully will lead to charitable contributions. And this is how I came to be sitting in the office of Ceci Riecker, the Bentley’s Director of Development.

Ceci’s origin story is that of an English major. Like some English majors (*ahem*), she didn’t have focused career advisement and she didn’t mean to set out into the world as the next Rory Gilmore. Ceci worked for some time as an administrative assistant in a local bank before moving on to work for the well-known Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. She found a position at the Museum of Natural History in development and gradually worked her way up into leadership positions at St. Joseph’s and EMU. During this time, she explored the world of nonprofits and cultural heritage on her own, finishing work in Historic Preservation at EMU. When she heard that the Bentley was seeking applicants for a Director of Development, she resolved to apply with a simple message: “You need me.”

Ceci’s appreciation for our mission, combined with the skills and network of contacts she has cultivated in the course of her work, really spoke to me. Chatting with her has only strengthened my suspicion that those of us intent upon building a records management program can stand to take a few cues from our partners in the nonprofit development sector.

“Think of development as education. What did Terry* say the other day, educate up, mentor down?” I smiled at this, and agreed. Yes, every meeting I have, whether I’ve partnered with my field colleagues or not, usually includes a solid 15-minute pitch crafted through research (donor files, a gap analysis of the finding aid, and a good ol’ fashion newspaper) and the feel of the conversation. Maybe they’ll contact me for a records schedule, maybe not, but the seeds have been planted.

“It’s about trust and a relationship. Manage the ask.” In other words, going in with a list of demands may be heavy-handed at best, off-putting and tactless at worst. Managing your asks and those touches (“Hey, I thought of you when this came through our door…”,) may take time but the relationship you cultivate will last. If something comes up, that relationship you’ve taken the time to forge means you’ll have an ally in the office more willing than not to assist you.

On the matter of research, she summed it up succinctly. “Knowledge. Interest. Respect.” Doing the research beforehand goes to show that you are interested and knowledgeable without you having to say you are interested and knowledgeable. Putting that effort in demonstrates respect for their time and their conversation.

What about building a network? “It’s about identifying the points of connection.” This, too, makes sense. Some months ago we began to receive packages in the mail from one of the units on campus. After several of these unsolicited offers of “old yearbooks”, I reached out via telephone to personally thank my contact for the time she had taken to send us the materials and to also fish for a little information. Was she cleaning out a closet? Was she aware of the records scheduling and transfer services we offer to units? The answer was yes and no – in fact, it was several forgotten closets being unearthed by architects during a swing space evaluation. This particular building is being renovated and all the administrative units and student organizations housed there are being headquartered elsewhere for the next year. This move is a major trigger event, and we’ve been able to partner with dozens of new allies.

(n.b. Nonprofit development staff also have moved beyond Excel spreadsheets and have invested in tools and products which help them to identify and manage those points of connection, such as Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce. I personally think it interesting to think about possible applications of these tools when considering traditional archival donor management techniques.)

Like many, I dislike receiving criticism. The reality is that we need that criticism to know ourselves. We are asking that others share with us an intimate knowledge of their office dynamics and information. We are asking that they trust us with our professed expertise. Thus, I am not embarrassed to write that I asked Ceci point blank what she found to be her greatest weakness. “Long-term planning is a tough one. Things pop up and I could just do it myself, but it won’t be half as good as if I did it with the way it’s supposed to be done…with my team!” Her honesty on this was – is – reassuring for me to hear. As a relatively early careerist in higher education, I often find that pace is challenging. How long should it take to build a program? How do I best manage my expectations for its development? Why don’t people email me with questions?! We have a website!

There is no real conclusion to this post other than for me to say that I’m happy to have explored another perspective. Archivists and records managers extol the virtues of being interdisciplinary. When it comes to managing and improving our own business processes, what harm is there in looking outside the profession for a little inspiration?

For those of you interested in building a network of records liaisons and contacts more strategically, Ceci has recommended the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as a good starting place to learn more about development tools and techniques.

*Terry McDonald, Director of the Bentley Historical Library

And now: Archives/Records Carols!

Sometimes I get earworms. Sometimes those earworms involve the creation of filk snippets. Sometimes those snippets are so, ahem, compelling that I feel the need as a musician to finish them. The result of all of those sometimes around the winter holidays is the below, originally shared on Twitter and now brought here for your viewing/singing pleasure. I would apologize, but I’m not really sorry at all. THE FILK MUST FLOW.

In any case, whatever winter holiday you celebrate– or none at all– have a happy one! (And don’t forget to follow the retention period on your gift receipts!)

Continue reading “And now: Archives/Records Carols!”

SharePoint and Google Classroom and the 3 Steps for Quick Management of the Collection

As the digital age fully takes hold of modern society, the traditional concepts of a library, archives, museum are evolving into something far beyond just a place where books are stored. And as these institutions change, so too must librarians, archivists, curators, and media specialists and the resources they manage (https://tinyurl.com/y9hr2txj).   Google Classroom , just as SharePoint, is designed to help them effectively manage document sharing and provide feedback to the users of their collections on Google Drive for Google Classroom (or MSDE with SharePoint).  Classroom  and SharePoint can replace or work alongside your existing solutions (i.e. integrated library management system, archival collections management system, etc).

Google Classroom, just as SharePoint, is designed to be used by non-IT users without too much input from IT or Tech Support.  Unfortunately, the initial set-up for SharePoint is IT related unless you are using a hosted site giving rights to all of the features available.  Google Classroom only requires a Google account  and then you can build your Google Classroom up as you would a SharePoint site with your choice of modules to use for your work needs in less than 5 minutes per classification.

Do you want to show archived video to your collection’s users?  I had archived videos of a 10 year study I performed on a local natural resource, Lake Artemesia.  To share the videos with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, I created a Google Classroom that allowed all of these user types to experience Lake Artemesia through engaged exercises by answering questions after watching the videos.  This could also be a mini tour of your collection for your collection users to experience before coming to the actual exhibit onsite (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/3-steps-for-quick-management-of.html).

4 Steps to a Possible Archiving of Classroom Management Records

In my previous blog postings, I have identified that discovery programs (maker space) that librarians and library media specialists create require busying the hands of young children when working in elementary schools that cover grades Pre-K to 6th.  The same could be said when dealing with fellow co-workers during online conferences conducted for office staff.   The topic for the In-house Field trip or office webinar may be developed by a librarian or library media specialist.  4 Steps could be implemented in order to have the ability to busy the hands of children and adults while the guest speaker is talking and interacting back and forth with the audience (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/quick-and-dirty-roadmap-to-classroom.html)